US trade rep. to visit

Deputy US Trade Representative Josette Sheeran Shiner, who has a wide-ranging background in policy, journalism and the private sector, is expected to visit Sri Lanka this week on a two-day visit to explore ways to strengthen and expand bilateral trade ties.

Ambassador Shiner who is scheduled to arrive on October 14, will discuss opportunities and challenges with premier Wickremesinghe, Commerce Minister Ravi Karunanayake and representatives of the Sri Lankan private sector, the US embassy in Colombo said.

Ms. Shiner was nominated to the position of Deputy US Trade Representative by President George W. Bush.

"Sri Lanka has taken bold steps to end its ethnic conflict, to open its economy, and to advance multilateral trade liberalisation through the World Trade Organisation," Shiner said. "I look forward to meeting with Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and Minister Karunanayake and to hearing directly from Sri Lankans their views on how to expand and diversify trade between Sri Lanka and the United States, boost economic growth and development, and forge a lasting peace in their country."

Talks between Ambassador Shiner and senior Sri Lankan officials will take place under the US-Sri Lanka Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). Among other things, the TIFA establishes a special forum to discuss bilateral trade and investment issues. The TIFA was signed in July 2002 on the occasion of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s visit to the United States. Two previous TIFA meetings were held in Washington and Colombo.

Ambassador Shiner will also discuss with her Sri Lankan counterparts their interest in a possible free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and Sri Lanka. During the TIFA session, the United States will discuss questions about existing US FTAs, which have set high standards for comprehensive agreements.

"We’ve enjoyed a productive TIFA with Sri Lanka and we’ve resolved several issues. Sri Lanka has indicated its interest in deepening our trade relationship," Ambassador Shiner said. "One of the purposes of my visit is to listen and to learn from Sri Lankans about their goals and expectations for trade and how they fit with their economic reform and growth plans."

The United States is Sri Lanka’s largest single export market, accounting for roughly 40 per cent of the country’s overseas sales. The United States has long worked closely with Sri Lanka to promote economic growth, opportunity and development across the nation and strongly supported Norway’s efforts to facilitate peace talks in Sri Lanka.

Ambassador Ashley Wills, the Assistant US Trade Representative for South Asia and former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, and Mr. David Spooner, the US Special Textile Negotiator, will accompany Ambassador Shiner during her visit.

Ms. Shiner has a distinguished background in media. She has twice served as a Pulitzer Prize juror, including for foreign reporting. During her tenure as managing editor of the WASHINGTON TIMES, the TIMES rose to prominence as one of the world’s most quoted and awarded newspapers. As a reporter, editor, and columnist for Scripps Howard News Service, she interviewed more than a dozen heads of states. She has been a regular commentator on programme such as "Nightline," "Fox News," the "McLaughlin Group," the "Diane Rehm Show," CNN, and others.

In 1997 WASHINGTONIAN magazine named Ms. Shiner as one of Washington’s 100 Most Powerful Women.